On Leadership: What Makes a Leader?

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What Makes a LeaderThis article makes the case for emotional intelligence (E.I.). Although this article was initially published in 1998, the information continues to be valid and relevant. This being said, there are still people out there who either don’t believe that emotional intelligence is real or believe that there are not any benefits to developing their own emotional intelligence. For those individuals who dismiss emotional intelligence, I believe they do so because they see it as “wasting time making nice over non-negotiable realities”. In turn, I believe that perspective results in not only a more abrasive leadership style, but a tougher and less successful go at it despite formal authority.

Daniel Goleman makes his case for emotional intelligence by identifying core traits to capture the essence of E.I. and includes in his research work that is decidedly pointed at capturing concrete data alongside the somewhat more subjective discussion of the article.  Goleman identifies five components of E.I.: social-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skill. Below, I have shared brief statements from the article about each component.

  1. Self-Awareness:
    -The decisions of self-aware people mesh with their values; consequently, they often find work to be energizing.
    -It shows itself as candor and an ability to assess oneself realistically.
  2. Self-Regulation:
    -The signs of emotional self-regulation, therefore, are easy to see: a propensity for reflection and thoughtfulness; comfort with ambiguity and change; and integrity – an ability to say no to impulsive urges.
    -Self-regulation often does not get its due. People who can master their emotions are sometimes seen as cold fish – their considered responses are taken as a lack of passion.
  3. Motivation:
    -The first sign is a passion for the work itself – such people seek out creative challenges, love to learn, and take great pride in a job well done. They also display an unflagging energy to do things better.
    -People with such energy often seem restless with the status quo.
    -People with high motivation remain optimistic even when the score is against them. In such cases, self-regulation combines with motivation to overcome the frustration and depression that come after a setback or failure.
  4. Empathy:
    -Empathy means thoughtfully considering employees’ feelings – along with other factors – in the process of making intelligent decisions.
    -People who have it are attuned to the subtleties in body language; they can hear the message beneath the words being spoken.
    -People wonder how leaders can make hard decisions if they are “feeling” for all the people who will be affected.
  5. Social Skill:
    -Social skill, rather, is friendliness with a purpose: moving people in the direction you desire, whether that’s agreement on a new marketing strategy or enthusiasm about a new product.
    -People tend to be very effective at managing relationships when they can understand and control their own emotions and can empathize with the feelings of others.

In addition to defining E.I., Goleman goes on to show that at a certain level, the value of technical expertise reaches a plateau. Essentially, if you get to a certain level of leadership within an organization, the distinction between good and awesome rests on the back of E.I. because everybody who is able to get to that level had to posess a certain level of technical competence. One of the companies used in the research for this article was able to demonstrate that its leaders who exercised high E.I. reached earnings levels 20% higher than their peers who didn’t exercise effective E.I.

Overall, I appreciated the balance that Goleman provided by connecting E.I. and earnings performance.  I think the lack of appreciation for E.I. is embedded in society’s seeming belief that those things that are qualitative and not easily attributable to profit are either not worthwhile or doable. If you take this view, the buy-in for E.I. is wrapped in personal philosophy and values while the willingness to do it is wrapped in more stories about how it leads to profitability.

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